Blackberry’s demise, and anonymous sources

News this week revolved around several phone companies this week, with the release of Apple’s new iPhone 5. The Business world is always talking about companies succeeding and failing. This week, the failing company was BlackBerry Ltd. 

On September 20 the company announced a quarterly loss of $1 billion dollars, and the planned layoff of 40% of their global workforce. The implications of this company loss will be substantial on the market; especially on the global market with 4,500 people losing their jobs. 

One solution to this problem is a buyout: where a different company buys the remaining stocks at a set price and obtains all of their assets, cash, etc. The other option for a company that is going out of business is to declare bankruptcy. 

Articles in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both explored this hazardous situation that BlackBerry is in. The Times chose to go with an opinion article tucked away in one of their Technology blogs, while business-oriented WSJ had a front-page spread, with a larger word count and more contributing articles than an opinion piece by one of their business writers. 

Featured in the blog ‘DealB%k’, author Stephen J. Lubben discusses the possible solutions to BlackFerry’s problems. His first sentence is “So BlackBerry has found itself a buyer. But the $4.7 billion offer by Fairfax Financial Holdings, the Canadian insurance and investment company, to take the company private does not necessarily resolve the company’s problems.” He goes on to say that despite the Fairfax’s letter of intent to buy BlackBerry’s shares at a set price, they do not have to follow through with their offer. In the Wall Street Journal, this legal process is explained further, stating that BlackBerry has a set amount of time to shop around and look at other offers. 

Lubben’s main advice to Blackberry is to declare bankruptcy, but this would still not solve all of their problems. “The challenge BlackBerry faces is reducing its operations as it customer base shrinks…the real question is whether BlackBerry can pull out of a self-reinforcing cycle”, Lubben says. 

There is no ‘missing’ information in the Times article compared to the WSJ story; the WSJ version has a more complete evaluation of the BlackBerry situation. The Times is a small opinion piece, but it is still stated: Lubben thinks BlackBerry would be better off declaring bankruptcy. 

WSJ’s story, despite having more business information, still had some issues. Multiple times, anonymous sources are used.  “BlackBerry’s unusual move to put together a loosely structured deal was motivated by its rapidly deteriorating business, several people close to the situation.” A person ‘close to the situation’ could be anybody. It could be somebody working in an involved bank, a person from BlackBerry (they have spokespeople), or somebody from Fairfax (they have made statements and have spokespeople as well). 

It is listed in the AP Stylebook, that writers are not to use anonymous sources unless their information is invaluable to the story, or their identity absolutely cannot be revealed for legal or business reasons. It is a rule not to be abused, as it is here in this article. The Wall Street Journal is a nationally-read journal; one that other business journals and newspapers look up to and hold a standard to. If the WSJ cannot hold it up themselves to the basics of AP Style, who will? Is integrity that hard to work for? Apparently so. 


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